Children after PND – “Don’t let your past, shape your future.”
I recently received an email asking me how I built up the courage to have another baby after experiencing Post Natal Depression, 5 years ago with my first born Olivia? Was I frightened PND would return? Did I have any freak outs along the way? Did I experience it with my two youngest children?
This email and these questions inspired this post. If one person is taking the time to write me an email, I am positive there are others out there having the same dilemma and may not have anymore children out of pure fear that PND will raise it ugly head again.
When I fell pregnant with Jack, my second baby (Jack is now 2 and a half), only 6 months earlier I had experienced an ectopic pregnancy. The moment the pregnancy test came back positive for Jack, I was instantly anxious and afraid it could be another ectopic, that was a very emotional and scary time, which I did not want to go through again but I didn’t let it stop me having more children. (You can read about my Ectopic Pregnancy here). When we received the great news that the pregnancy was where it should be and was progressing as to be expect we were over the moon.
There were definitely bumps along the way with my second and third babies as there are with most pregnancies but I thought the best way to explain how I avoided PND again is to answer the above questions.
Was I frightened PND would return?
Absolutely!!!! Having undiagnosed pre and postnatal depression for 18 months was a horrible time to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Did I have any freak outs along the way?
Again absolutely!! Pregnancy is such an unpredictable life event. I had complications with both Macy and Jack, which in turn set off my anxiety and made me question my mental health. I started dilating at 25 weeks with Macy so the thought of my body letting my baby down and putting her at risk with an early delivery was another testing time.
Did I experience PND with my youngest two children?
Id’ love to say absolutely NOT to this one but reality is when you have experienced a mental illness of any kind it can return. Hormones, life changes, life experiences and stress can all trigger mental illness to return. When I was 6 months pregnant with Jack (my second baby) I had a complete meltdown, I went into my OB’s office and cried uncontrollably, I was petrified that what is meant to be the happiest time in my life was about to be taken away from me again! The first 18 months of Olivia’s life was a blur, due to my PND. I was too busy trying to put on a show that everything was ok and most importantly that I was coping. While busy doing that I wasn’t taking care of myself, I wasn’t listening to my body which I am normally so good at. Not knowing at the time, that the way I felt was not, due to me being ungrateful, it was not because I couldn’t do it, It was not because I didn’t love my baby and most importantly it was not my fault.
This is the difference, once you’ve experienced PND, you know it’s not your fault, you know that you are sensitive to hormone changes and a little sleep deprivation will knock you around. Remember that once you’ve been through it, you know what to do to get better. If you feel like your not quite right, you’ve already been down this path and your starting point will be halfway to recovery, because remember you’ve beaten it before and you will beat it again, that’s how I look at it. If you listen to yourself and look after yourself you will never start from the beginning again. The beginning is the questions you continuously ask yourself but don’t want to here the answers to. Like, why do I feel this way? Why aren’t I over the moon with joy? Why do I feel so disconnected? Why can’t I sleep? Or why do I sleep too much? If any of these questions and feeling start entering your mind, take charge and talk to the necessary people, to get back on track.
When my freak out happened during Jack’s pregnancy I took charge, I told my husband I was starting to feel a little anxious about potentially going through another traumatic birth and that PND might be creeping in again. I went to my GP and we got back on the plan and treatment I used when I was diagnosed with Olivia. It was a simple as that, I had the tools, information, awareness and support around me. This is how I avoided PND taking over my life again, this is how I got to enjoy a beautiful birthing and postnatal experience second and third time around. Mental health has been explained to me as being like a bucket, bit by bit your bucket fills up, on testing days like teething, tantrums and lack of sleep, let me give you the news, my bucket fills at a rapid rate then all of a sudden the slightest thing can cause it to overflow. These are the days where I think I can’t do it, I feel like I am in over my head, drowning I guess you could say and that I am not strong enough mentally or physically to handle 3 children under 6 but then I check in. I check in with my family, my doctor or my psychologist and most importantly I check in with myself and empty the bucket. There are many strategies you can use to keep your mental health in check and different things work for different people. You need to find what works best for you and your situation.
I would love to tell you PND won’t ever come back and to tell first time mums to be, that they can avoid getting PND but I can’t and I would be lying. You can’t control your hormones, your birth experience or how your body will react to the massive changes pre and postnatally but what you CAN control is the amount of information and support you gather, incase you find yourself not feeling well. The sooner you get onto it, the faster your road to recovery and most importantly enjoyment will be.
If you are content with the number of children you have then congratulations girlfriend, you did good, your a super mumma, no matter how many children you have. If you are wanting more but scared due to previous experiences, talk to someone, a family member, a doctor, a psychologist, whoever you feel comfortable with, there is so much information and support out there to help you with your decision. .
I’d like to think that everyone reading this will take out the following message. We all have mental health and at different times it needs more love and attention than others, take care of you and take charge or your enjoyment of life.
Most importantly “Don’t let your past shape your future”
If you are struggling or know someone who is go to www.beyondblue.org.au for help and information.